RINGGOLD, Ga. — The Catoosa County Commission on Tuesday night delayed a vote on a new neighborhood development over concerns about school crowding and whether the new homes would be hooked up to the sewer system.
Hoyt Lance has requested a zoning change from agricultural to residential on about 52 acres off Moore Road in Ringgold, with the plan of building about 103 homes. The homes would sit on about 50-foot lots with price points of about $200,000. The county's planning commission approved the proposal on June 26 in a 4-0 vote.
But several of the county commissioners, who have the final say on the re-zoning, said they were not comfortable with the plan. At least not right now. Commissioner Jeff Long wanted to make sure the school system could support more students with the development.
"I know several of the schools are already maxed out," he said.
The commissioners then unanimously voted to table the rezoning proposal, giving them time to talk about the project with school district officials.
Mike Price, with M.A.P. Engineers, is also working on the project and pointed out that the Catoosa County Schools' representative on the planning commission has not objected to the proposal. That representative, Mike Sholl, missed the meeting when the vote on the property took place. But he was at a previous meeting when the proposal came up.
"If he's not at those meetings, then it would seem like it's imperative upon him to get some sort of question of that brought to the board," Price said of Sholl. "Because four members out of five voted yes."
Commission Chairman Steve Henry argued that waiting a couple of weeks would not hurt the project too much, and it would give the county officials time to make sure the project doesn't harm the school district. Price said the delay does hurt, as developers try to nail down contracts for a project still up in the air.
Henry also asked Price to receive preliminary approval from Chattanooga that his new neighborhood can get hooked up to the sewer system. Price said he might not be able to get approval before the next meeting, Typically, he wants to get the property rezoned before seeking the OK from Chattanooga.
"We didn't want to get the cart before the horse," he said. "We wanted to get the zoning — "
"Sometimes," Henry cut in, "the cart changes. If you get approved and you can't get sewer, we kind of went through a lot."
He added that he is concerned the development would not work out, and the county would have changed the zoning for nothing. The property could then get sold to somebody else who might not properly develop the area.
Price said commissioners should make zoning decisions based on a comprehensive plan, not on the specific developers involved. Brandon Bowen, a Cartersville attorney representing Lance on the project, said the county's future land use map lists the area as suburban in the future — not rural.
"This rezoning application is squarely consistent with your comprehensive plan," Bowen said.
In addition to the homes, about 30 percent of the property will be a community space with walking paths. The developers also plan to plant a 50-foot vegetative buffer.
Commissioner Jim Cutler said he thought 50-foot lots seemed small for homes. Typically, they are about 80-to-100 feet. But Price said more communities are building smaller property. He is building a subdivision next to Cambridge Square in Ooltewah with 35-foot lots. The developers plan to sell the homes for $500,000.
"The development trends have changed over what they were even five, six, seven years ago," Price said. "The great recession that we went through, with what millennials now want, it's different. It's not the same type of developments that people once did."
After the meeting, county attorney Clifton "Skip" Patty explained that under R-3 zoning, developers are required to have lots that are at least 80 feet wide. Hoyt Lance's proposal is that after rezoning the property from agricultural to residential, a variance will be requested from the planning commission to allow the development of 50-foot-wide lots under the new zoning.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.